The Indian government has ended subsidy for Haj from this year, according to minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
A record number of 1.75 lakh Muslims will undertake the pilgrimage this year from the country despite the subsidy withdrawal, the minister said.
Naqvi also said that the Saudi Arabian government has in principle agreed to allow Haj journey from India by ships and officials of the two countries will sit together to finalise the modalities
“This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement,” Naqvi told reporters and cited a host of measures for the welfare of minorities
The government has pledged that the funds earlier meant for Haj subsidy will be used for the education of minorities, particularly girl children.
The government will invest what it saves for minority education. It had spent over Rs 250 crore last year on subsidising the travel to Saudi Arabia, he said. Restrictions on pilgrims having to take flights from their place of stay or nearest airports have been relaxed and this will lead to cheaper air travel, Naqvi said. It will also allow Haj travellers to take advantage of bulk bookings while the government will continue to spend on medical expenses.
The decision to end the subsidy for Haj pilgrims follows a 2012 Supreme Court order to do away with the subsidy, long sought by BJP. Following the order, the subsidy was gradually rolled back and has now ended.
Earlier this year, Naqvi had said that the Centre would abolish the subsidy for Haj pilgrims in accordance with a Supreme Court order
“A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had, during the Congress regime in 2012, directed that the Haj subsidy be done away with. Hence, in the new policy, as per the recommendations of a committee, we have decided to do away with the Haj subsidy gradually,” he had said.